CAPE TOWN : What turned out to be a sunny day with winter snow still on the mountain peaks, and miraculously arriving after a ten-day storm that left many shantytown dwellers homeless, was marred by a racist incident involving the management of the Biscuit Factory. After getting permission from City Council to gather at the public space which is used as a “Neighbourgoods” market by mostly white patrons, we were told to leave shortly after arriving.

An overzealous security guard threatened me personally with grievous bodily harm if I did not follow orders. After explaining to a white woman who appeared to be in charge that we were standing on a public thoroughfare and had permission from the City to be there, we were given a short respite, only to be handed a cellphone. On the other end was somebody who claimed to be a manager. I attempted to engage him in conversation but he became aggressive. I then asked the man to call the Woodstock Police Station Operations Manager who had a copy of our permit. In hindsight it would have been better if we had received written proof that permission had been granted instead of a telephone call, but it seems the City has contented itself with a new computer system that does away with paper.

So there we were, about eight of us in costume. A documentary crew headed by Yunus Valley in the process of interviewing Moosa Salie, our celebrity lunatic, when we all had to up and make a run for it as the situation clearly turned hostile. Thus began our bedpush, with a security guard in hot pursuit, a Mad Doctor, and various inmates of a mental asylum with surgical masks constituting our parade. As we reached the bohemian suburb of Observatory, nerves calmed somewhat and we could breathe. At about 2pm , we wisely decided to make a detour past a local restaurant, Touch of Madness, for a cold one. The documentary crew were obliging and whilst drinking a Namibian beer I was interviewed for what appears to be a project on the holy grail of psychiatry – schizophrenia.

Only time will tell if our input changes any of the misconceptions attached to psychiatric labels, the problematic medical model and the campaign to abolish the schizophrenia label. Next up was a memorandum delivered by Moosa Salie outside Cape Mental Health. As Moosa read out a rehash of our press release, our celebrity nurse, sex columnist Trinity Diva arrived and made a spectacular backdrop. As with most things attached to Mad Pride, we are still feeling our way forward gently and so the planned route through Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital which is adjacent the Cape Town Observatory was met by the inevitable problem that we did not have paperwork, nor had the film crew gained permission to film in a government institution. To put things simply: We were denied entry.

Hospital legislation prevents the shooting of footage within twelve metres of such an establishment which is surrounded by barbed wire and an electric fence. So there we were, forced to make a detour through a neighbouring Wildness reserve, over a lake, onto a golf-course and finally to our destination – Oude Moulen Eco-Village. The village was once the non-white section of Valkenberg which was build on the original farm of the same name. After dehospitalisation many Valkenberg inmates ended up on the premises which is now a thriving intentional community under threat from developers and the gentrification that is proceeded apace as South Africa gears up for the World Cup Football.

Hopefully Mad Pride is a cause that will be taken up by the villagers, many of whom have been through the psychiatric system, or who have psychiatric labels. Organic farming is certainly therapy. As one villager argued: We need inbetween spaces like Oude Moulen since the alternative is being strapped down to a hospital bed!

Although the Mad Sound System promised on our flyer never materialized, and promises of DJ equipment seemed to have disappeared into thin air (cold weather does that), our Bonkersfest turned into a lovely afternoon out, with a late lunch being served by the Oude Moulen canteen run by artist Bruno Brincat. A number of Madsters arrived late for the dinner and the growing movement was documented by videographer Yunus Valley in what can only be described as a difficult, challenging but important second year.

 

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